Facebook game leads to life-saving kidney donation

Facebook game leads to life-saving kidney donation

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Four years ago, Lisa Miller played a game on Facebook that started a life-changing chain of events.

While playing the Facebook game Farm Town, Miller met the mother of a young woman in Idaho, who was being treated for renal failure as a result of spina bifida.

The woman told Miller all about her daughter's ailing health and how she desperately needed a kidney transplant.

Miller made contact with the woman's daughter and the two became friends on the social networking site. Their friendship extended into real life with long distance phone calls and Miller's exhaustive attempts to find the young woman a kidney donor.

The young woman, who asked only to be called Tiffany privacy reasons, spent several days a week for a number of years having dialysis treatments. She is also the mother of a young son.

Finding a kidney for the young woman wouldn't be as easy as finding a willing donor. The person would also need to be a perfect match for Tiffany's blood type, otherwise her body would reject the new kidney. The donor would also need to be the picture of health both physically and mentally.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, an average of 13 people die everyday waiting for a kidney transplant. There currently are 93,000 Americans on the national waiting list for kidney donations.

After three years of looking for a donor kidney, the perfect match was closer than Lisa Miller would have ever thought.

About Kidney donation:
The major function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body. When the kidney is not functioning properly, the body is unable to maintain a stable balance of chemicals.

If a kidney fails and other treatments do not work, a transplant may be necessary. The kidney may come from a deceased person or from a living relative, friend, or even a stranger.

  • The kidney is the most common "living donation" — meaning a living person donates the organ.
  • A living kidney usually begins to function immediately, meaning a recipient may not need dialysis.
  • Kidney transplantation is highly successful, and success rates continue to improve, although some kidneys are rejected by the body.

Miller's husband, Chris Miller, came home one night earlier this year and found his wife talking with Tiffany on the phone.

"She just asked me point blank if I would get tested, and I didn't really have to think about it at all ... the minute she asked me about it I said 'Absolutely.' I just knew it was the right thing to do. I mean, she certainly needed it," Chris said.

Chris was 41 years old when he went to the American Red Cross in Gainesville to take a blood test to see if his kidney would be a match. His blood signaled the first of many matches, O positive for her A positive.

His physical and mental evaluations confirmed he would be able to handle the operation.

On Jan. 8, he plans to give one of his kidneys to the young mother in Idaho.

"I'm so excited for this surgery I just wish it was tomorrow," Chris said.

He said he's eager for the surgery because of the good it will do in the Tiffany's life.

"Quite frankly, it's important to me. It's important to Lisa. It's an amazing journey.

I'm 100 percent ready. I'm not nervous at all," Chris said.

The healing process will be a lengthy one for both parties.

Chris and Lisa Miller plan on staying in Spokane, Wash., where the transplant operation will be performed at Sacred Heart Medical Center, for at least two weeks after the surgery. Chris will have to take a few more weeks off from his job at Home Depot. There is also a risk for depression after the operation.

I'm so excited for this surgery I just wish it was tomorrow.

–Chris Miller

Tiffany will start to feel better soon after the surgery but will have to isolate herself from other people to avoid possible infections.

While most people would feel they've given more than enough by providing a near stranger with an organ, it isn't exactly enough for the Millers.

They're also holding a fundraiser to help with the woman's aftercare expenses and to provide Tiffany and her son a mini vacation, something they haven't had in years with Tiffany undergoing dialysis.

"There are a lot of things that this young girl needs. Yes, she's getting my husband's kidney. A lot of people say 'Why are you doing this? You're already giving her a kidney.' Well, we want to make sure this kidney survives. We aren't giving her this kidney to last today, we're giving it to her to last a lifetime," said Lisa.

"We still will remain really close friends. I mean we're family. She's going to have my husband's kidney. They're going to be blood relatives now," said Lisa.

Image credit: CBS Atlanta

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